Every artist who starts out in music seeks to buy material at a good price, but still maintain a good quality. Because in the end nobody wants to hear: “you get what you paid for”.
If you are passionate about keyboards, either because you would like to learn to play the piano or because you like to make your own music, or because you and your friends have come up with the crazy idea of starting a band and you were chosen to be the keyboard player, you’re probably looking to get a beginner keyboard, or at least a quality keyboard at a good price and you’re looking for recommendations.
The place to buy your keyboard:
While it may be convenient to go to the nearest music store to your location, you will see for yourself and play with your own hands the keyboard you want to buy, and they will also be able to advise you.
But if you are reading this it is because you are already looking for advice and are planning on buying your keyboard online. After all, it’s the most common thing these days, and customers are satisfied with the speed of delivery.
There are many online music stores and branded websites that sell their own musical instruments. But if we are talking about buying a cheap keyboard that maintains the quality, it will be a simple purchase that you can make through the most popular stores such as Amazon.
I’m going to tell you that any keyboard today really does its job, but depending on what you want it for, you’re better off with one model than another.
So let’s see what your case is first and then which keyboard you should buy.
1. A keyboard for playing in shows
This is a very common case. Either because you are a member of a band, or because you are a soloist who is going to perform in shows away from home, your keyboard is going to accompany you on the road and therefore will be more exposed to shocks.
In this case, due to the weight and volume of our keyboard, it’s very likely that we cannot guarantee its total protection. Your keyboard should be able to withstand shocks and even possible falls, so you should buy a keyboard from a reliable brand and, if possible, not too heavy.
On the other hand, if you are the keyboardist of a band (or solo) and you’re going to use your keyboard to play on pre-set rhythms of different musical styles, what you’re looking for is an arranger keyboard. This type of keyboard comes with its own software with predefined rhythms whose chords change according to your commands.
On an arranger keyboard, you can also choose from a variety of digital instruments to play them alternately in the octaves you set. This way you can mark the rhythmic patterns for the base of the song in real time with your left hand, and play the melody or other arrangements with your right hand, for example.
On the other hand, and taking into account the use you’re going to give to your musical keyboard, since a very large and heavy keyboard is not convenient for you, for your comfort it could be advisable that the keyboard doesn’t have many octaves. About five or six octaves (with some additional keys) are more than enough.
Among the many functions that this type of keyboard can bring, we can also find that these arranger keyboards have a voice processor (or instrument processor such as the guitar) that allows you to add multiple effects. You can use the keyboard as a mixer to equalize the singer’s voice or the instrument you connect, in order to create pre-sets for live performances.
2. A keyboard for learning to play the piano
Learning to play the piano is the desire of many people, but few carry it out because of some impediment.
What’s stopping you? Well, it’s usually due to several factors, but the main one is not having a piano at home. A real professional piano such as a grand piano is expensive, it takes up a lot of space, and it also requires the maintenance of any acoustic piano, such as keeping its strings in tune and in good condition.
Not everyone can afford to have a piano in their home, and one thing that makes it easier for you to practice playing a musical instrument is to have your own at your fingertips. For example, many people learn to play the guitar after practicing a lot, and to practice a lot you must have the guitar close to you.
If you are looking to buy a keyboard to learn to play the piano, the most affordable solution is to get a digital piano or a stage piano.
A digital piano is, as its name suggests, an electric instrument that imitates the use and sound of an acoustic piano. This type of keyboard does not necessarily have to include sounds from other instruments in its software, nor does it have an arranger function (all that allows you to make the arranger keyboard we saw above). They just have to pretend to be playing an acoustic piano.
Some digital pianos include the pedal (to lengthen the sound of the notes), and others you have to buy it separately. But they all allow you to add one.
Another characteristic of digital pianos (or stage pianos) is that they try to imitate the weight of the keys. After all, in an acoustic piano, the system that moves the hammer to strike the strings has a certain weight. Digital pianos are usually configured by default, the keys can have the effect of counterbalancing (weighted or semi-wheighted).
Here you don’t have to worry about the size of your keyboard, because in this case it does matter that as many octaves as possible are available. Generally, a digital piano has 88 keys (just over 7 octaves), which is more than enough to represent a professional acoustic piano. However, a six-octave keyboard is also good for learning.
In any case, if you are looking to practice at home, the advantage of this type of keyboard is that it is much more economical than acoustic pianos.
For example, for a good price/quality ratio you have the following digital piano, with more than enough octaves to practice playing any song: https://amzn.to/2IMHqvm
3. A keyboard for composing music
Here it would depend on how you produce your music. If you use your computer and constantly resort to the MIDI format, your best option is a master keyboard, or a small keyboard (also known as a MIDI controller).
This type of keyboard can be composed from two octaves up to as many as you consider necessary. If you are going to use it as a controller device, it won’t be important for you to have many keys, so you can also save space.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a synthesizer as well, since if you work with a DAW like Reason Studios, you are probably already working with sound generators from the same software. If not, a master keyboard can bring its own instrument library.
It would be nice if the keyboard had a USB to avoid passing the signal through an interface.
For example, the following keyboard is one of the most popular and complete MIDI controllers, with USB input and production software (it already has its own DAW that you can use from your computer): https://amzn.to/2IMHRpu
However, if you are not planning to enter the world of computer music production software, we can include arranger keyboards here again, which can bring a sequencer and an extensive library of digital instruments so that you can use the keyboard yourself as an all-in-one virtual studio.
Currently I compose my Creative Commons music directly on computer, but there are many composers who use a MIDI controller or a master keyboard to produce their own music.
I take this opportunity to give you another recommendation if you’re planning to publish your music creations on the Internet: register it first. If you are interested, I suggest you to read the following post about how to register your works online.
Which brand of keyboards to buy
Don’t go to too much trouble with the brand. Of course the brand is important, but keep in mind that this is going to be your first music keyboard, so you’re going get familiar with this musical instrument and try it out.
Among the most popular brands that allow you to buy a keyboard at a good price while maintaining quality we have Yamaha, Roland, Korg or Casio.
But the investment for a first keyboard shouldn’t be too high. Once you get more experience and know more about brands, you can decide what is most comfortable for you.
What you should be concerned about is the quality of what you are going to use it for. As I mentioned above, if it’s a case of use for shows, for example, we will be talking about your future work tool, so it is important that your keyboard is resistant to shocks and regular power cuts, for example.
Other accessories you may need
The purchase of your keyboard usually doesn’t include a keyboard stand, and this can be important. If you are going to perform in shows, the stand is a must, unless you can make your keyboard float in the air!
If, on the other hand, you are always going to have it at home in the same room, and you have a special table that you are reserving for it, no problem. But remember that you must be able to sit at the table correctly, the height of your keyboard must be adapted to you and your posture, and you must be able to have space to put your legs under it without feeling uncomfortable.
Luckily, keyboard stands are not expensive.
An adjustable piano bench would be useful if you don’t have a comfortable seat for your height. This is not essential, as you can usually find some kind of seat to suit your comfort; if you are at home, a chair; and if you go outside, you can always borrow something.
But if you are very dependent and need to regulate your height to take care of your back, a stool could be useful.
Bag or case:
The purchase of the keyboard does not include a case or a bag. If you’re going to keep your keyboard at home all the time, you may not need it, but if you’re constantly on the move, having a case will be vital.
There are soft cases or bags, which only protect your keyboard from the open weather. If you’re not going to move around a lot and are always going to do it safely, this type of keyboard case would be ideal.
On the other hand there are hard cases, which protect your keyboard with a solid frame on the outside and treat it with care on the inside. This is the best option to protect your keyboard from any knocks during recurrent and long trips.
To better simulate the system of every acoustic piano that allows to sustain the notes. With the pedal you can extend or shorten the duration of the sound, among other things (you can give it any function you want).
A keyboard pedal can be indispensable if you are thinking of learning to play the piano at an expert level.
Generally all keyboards come with a small built-in sheet music holder. If not, you can always get yours separately. Orchestra stands are not expensive and can be used to support sheet music or any document you need to hold in front of it.you
Some terms to consider when buying your keyboard:
Weighted / semi-weighted:
This is one of the features that emulate the feeling of playing an acoustic piano, in which when pressing the keys they have a certain weight or hardness.
There is also a gradual distribution of weight on the various keys, which are heavier in the low range than in the higher octaves. This is done in order to get even closer to the feeling of playing an acoustic piano.
Of course, the prices in this case can be quite high.
This is a type of sensitivity when pressing the keys that allows you to generate a sound or a variation of it by applying an effect (such as vibrato or tremolo, among others). The effect or secondary sound can arise by holding down the key (making the force of the pressure vary) or by releasing the key.
Although these effects are ignored by most MIDI instruments, there are some sounds that are specially configured by the keyboard to generate these effects.
Feel of the keys:
It turns out that the material the keys are made of also varies. At least the coating of the keys on a keyboard can be important for those who are used to playing with a piano.
Keys that imitate the “ivory” feel can give your fingers a better grip. Also, for those who sweat the most from their fingers, this material tolerates moisture better.
Fortunately, this feature does not affect the price too much. There are some fairly affordable models.